Union boss Weingarten thinks you’re a racist if you want good schools for your kids
Want to have some ability to choose where your child goes to school?
Well, then you’re a racist.
So says Randi Weingarten, leader of the American Federation of Teachers.
Words like “school choice” or “parental rights,” she maintains, are the “same kinds of words” used by segregationists, so if you use them too, you’re one of them.
Predictably, Weingarten is now furiously backpedaling, claiming that she was just making an innocent comment about “language” rather than actually accusing anyone of being racist, but this isn’t the first time she’s beat this drum.
In 2017, she called school-choice programs the “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.”
Nor is she the only teachers-union leader to make this claim.
The head of Chicago’s teachers union has written that “school choice was actually the choice of racists.”
It’s a very curious argument. In New York City, it is minority families who are most eagerly engaging in school choice: 28% of black families choose to send their children to charter schools and 14% of Hispanic families do so.
Apparently, they’re all racists.
How not to be a racist?
Go to a school that Weingarten likes: a school run by the government or, if you’re absolutely determined to go the charter school route, one whose teachers are a member of her union.
But the problem is that those schools often aren’t a good option, particularly for minority students.
In 2005, the Weingarten started a unionized charter school, promising that “real, quantifiable student achievement” would disprove the “misguided and simplistic notion that the union contract is an impediment to success.”
But by 2014, only 2% of its eighth-graders were proficient in math and 11% were proficient in English.
At that point, the union threw in the towel and closed its elementary and middle school.
But if you prefer not to choose a school at which your child has a 2% chance of learning math or, God forbid, you think you have “parental rights” to choose a better school, well then, you’re a racist.
The premise of this view is that any school that isn’t part of a government-run monopoly is “segregationist” because children don’t go to the same system.
This is echoed in local politics where charter-school opponents have claimed that charter schools are “separate and unequal” in an echo of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
But that’s the whole point of starting a charter school: to offer something that is better than — and thus unequal to — the district-school options available to families.
And in many cases, charter schools are succeeding, which is why they are the choice of more and more families, particularly minority families.
In Harlem, for example, 59% of students are now attending charter schools.
Ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio took a similar line as Weingarten.
He claimed that “the answer is not to save a few of our children only; the answer is to fix the entire system.”
His point was that a government-run monopoly is better because at some mythical point in the future when we “fix” this monopoly, then education will be great for everyone.
The problem, however, is that monopolies don’t tend to get “fixed.”
To the contrary, they tend to get even worse without competition.
Fortunately, however, we are now seeing the effects of real competition in New York City.
In charter-rich neighborhoods like Harlem and the South Bronx, parents are getting more and more demanding.
Ten years ago, they were happy if they could find a school that was safe and calm.
Now, they demand that a school have high academic standards.
The result is that schools must hustle and demand more of educators. Which, of course, is exactly what Randi Weingarten doesn’t want.
She wants to immunize educators from the same type of competitive pressures to which most Americans are subject when consumers can choose, so she tries to smear school choice advocates with this false charge of racism.
But parents know better, particularly the minority parents who are embracing school choice in New York City and around this country.
Eva Moskowitz is the founder and CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools.